The New Education Policy (2020) is like a donut—it has a layer of ‘eclectic’ words on the outside, but it is empty on the inside.
Launched on July 29, 2020, by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, it aims to ‘modernize’ primary and higher education in India, but not necessarily to better it. It would be wrong to not throw light on some of its positive aspects, like the extending free education to the age of 18, and supplementary funds for women’s education.
Unfortunately, the rest of the policy is a walking example of ‘majority privilege’ and it worsens with the current socio-economic backdrop of India. A deeper assessment of the NEP reveals it to be a classist, casteist, and discriminatory policy, perpetuating damage to our fundamental right to education.
Let’s start with the issue of the usage of regional languages till class 5. The lack of English education among students of the marginalised sections would open doors to further discrimination in employment opportunities.
Some international companies are known for their prejudiced behaviour towards people from Dalit communities. And, with the lack of grasp over English they might not even have a workplace, to begin with.
On the other hand, it is obvious that ‘renowned’ schools would never give up on English, and thus, the income gap would only become more pronounced.
This ‘deficiency’ of English learning would also be detrimental to students from marginalised communities, including economically disadvantaged groups, and even LGBTQ groups. They constitute one of the most victimized communities in India, especially in workplaces where they have to navigate multiple layers of brutality. The language imposition would only catapult their suppression to newer heights.
Now coming to the issue of e-learning, as mentioned in the policy. With the start of online teaching due to COVID-19, there have been numerous instances of lower-income group students missing out classes due to a lack of technological infrastructure. With around 46% of the population losing out on internet connectivity, the introduction of e-learning in the school curriculum shows the myopic view of the incumbent. Thus, the gap increases more and more.
Next is the issue of schools providing vocational training for students. This may look like a window for those students who are not very academically inclined, but unfortunately, the circumstances of this training are seemingly exploitative. Not learning English would automatically out students of disadvantaged class opting white-collar jobs at a loss. Thus, they might have to fall back on this vocational and polytechnic training to make ends meet.
Once again, the caste system deepens its roots with birth-determining professions. LGBTQ persons, from lower-income families, would face a similar deadlock, ultimately resulting in further marginalisation of the already marginalised.
Mainstreaming Sanskrit is another clause in the new education system. Sanskrit is considered the mother of all languages, but the document neither guides us on how to update the language for modern needs, nor does it recognize the lack of availability of teachers to teach Sanskrit as a mainstream subject. Not to mention the communal undercurrents that Sanskrit has been attributed by the right-wing nationalists of the country, it might further be projected inside or outside classrooms.
In the New Education Policy, there is no emphasis on the training of children with disabilities and e-learning which has now been integrated into school curriculums. The concept of continuous examination also hasn’t been very inclusive as the policy fails to reflect on the use of scribes by students with disabilities. Under the new system, teachers also need adequate training to help students with disabilities, which the education policy once again fails to elaborate on.
Two of the most heavily debated issues in the NEP 2020 are the internship provisions and the setting up of foreign universities in India. The NEP talks about unpaid internships from class 6 in local businesses. Sadly, this can only benefit corporate interests because it extracts free/cheap labour from students and exploits the marginalised.
Hence, words like “skill” do not hash out the fact that unpaid internships only allow the moneyed to move forward and become more privileged than the ones who need to be paid to afford necessities. It also doesn’t say that the NEP perpetuates this trend by turning students into ‘servitors’.
Coming to the subject of setting up of overseas universities and colleges in India, the NEP neither namedrops any of these universities nor does it elaborate on the fee structure these universities would have.
Now, as we know from experience that some Indian private colleges are extremely expensive, which is why many students opt for student loans. Considering this, it can be assumed that these foreign institutions might have a ‘sky-rocketing’ fee structure. Thus, it goes without saying that students from marginalised communities would not only able to afford them, they wouldn’t even have any kind of representation as well because there will probably be no reservation, which is a constitutional right.
The flexibility offered in classes 11 and 12 have been rejoiced by many, and rightly so. But, the concept of common entrance examinations will perpetuate the lack of specialisation, which happens to be one of the reasons for opting higher education in the first place.
The cancellation of M.Phil, the reduced tenure for Masters degrees, and the lack of independent research goes on to prove that NEP 2020 pushes for an unscientific and a reduced academic agenda. Students will be trained to be semi-skilled ‘slaves’ for big corporates rather then being encouraged to develop scientific and rational temperament.
As pointed out by Communist Party of India(Marxist) or CPI(M), the Draft New Education Policy (DNEP) 2019 transgressed the federal system of the country by robbing the states of their right to keep education under their own wing in order to cater to its regional interests, as correctly pointed by the
In conclusion, I feel the New Education Policy is a visionless, regressive attempt at westernising Indian education at the cost of notorious attacks on the minorities of the country.
It does nothing to abolish the systematic and structural exploitation of the so-called ‘lower’ class and instead simply serves as a smokescreen to make the education and economic system a privilege. One where the members of the working class are meant to be exploited for cheap labour with no chance of ‘social mobility’.